This morning as I was heading in to town to work I had to go over Monument hill. Monument Hill is notorious for unpredictable weather and a very steep decent on the back side which is made even worse by it being on an Interstate. As I approached Monument Hill, the weather suddenly turned to a blizzard and visibility dropped to a few hundred yards. As I crested the hill I could see brake lights and a wall of semis and cars part way down the hill. I slammed on my brakes and managed to stop a few feet from the car in front of me. Fortunately, the cars and trucks behind me were able to stop too. The vehicles in front of me weren't so lucky.
Since we weren't going anywhere, I got out to see if I could help. There were a total of twelve vehicles (not counting the two on trailers) involved in this wreck which had been caused by a two car wreck about a quarter mile further down the road. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt but a bunch of cars are going to the junk yard.
Walking back to my van I realized that I was the fourth car back from the wreck. Figuring I was going about 70 miles an hour before getting over the top of the hill, I missed being part of that pileup by about two seconds. Had I actually been involved and seriously injured, I know that Aquinas and More would still open in the morning and close at night without me. Packages would get shipped and customers would still be able to talk to someone at the store.
If you get hit by a truck, will your store open the next morning? Will it still be opening a month from now if you aren't back at work? If you can't answer yes, it's time to do some business emergency preparedness.
Like life insurance, you probably don't want to think about this but think about the family you may be supporting with the business. Think about the customers who depend on your store.
Here are some tips for being prepared for those “hit by a bus” emergencies.
- Train a manager or at least an employee to open and close the store. You CANNOT be the only person who works at your store. If you can't afford at least a part time employee, you need to do some serious accounting work to figure out how to improve your business.
- Keep a list of important store contacts in a known location.
- Schedule important regular bills to be paid through your bank's auto bill pay system. This is usually free and will ensure that your rent isn't overlooked.
- Write an operations manual for your business. This is really essential unless you plan on working in the store every day for the rest of your life until you drop dead and the store is shut down. If you don't know where to start on a manual, I recommend reading a copy of E-Myth Mastery. It has plenty of other great information to help you improve your business but the documentation section is key to emergency preparedness.
- Have a business plan that will help whoever is running your store know what to do if you aren't able to get back to work soon (or ever).
- Make sure that the legal issues involving your business are spelled out in company bylaws or in your will in case of your death.
- Write down any passwords and important website logins and keep them in a safe place. If you keep it all in your head and are incapacitated or dead, it is going to take months to get through the legal red tape to gain access to these things again.
Hopefully you won't ever have to face a situation like this but if you aren't prepared, you are making the situation that much worse for everyone who depends on you.